It's August and silly season is "officially" all over us. Everybody knows the talking has taken place during the season and especially during the tour, nowadays it's all about the formalisation itself, aka the signature. Some riders have been assigned as stagiares and are new to the pro peloton, while others are not to be found in the pro ranks next season due to lack of performance, old age or other reasons. Among those who are returning to the pro or conti peloton are riders having spend a year or two outside for doping conviction. What to say about this? The ones who have failed to live up to the expectations of fans, teams and public, who fooled not only themselves but others who trusted them? What makes their return ok?
The idea of this post has been on my mind for a long time, or perhaps the right way of putting it is; many times have this subject crossed my mind. As you all know, doping has been a part of cycling as in every other professional endurance sport for many years. I have mixed feelings bringing it up too, sometimes I'm quite tired of hearing about it, feeling that too much emphasis is being put on those who cheats instead of those who don't. But, with this post I hope to learn more about why some rider are forgiven, while others not.
There are examples of riders who doped who are being welcomed back into the sport and now are ambassadors/spokesmen against dopers, David Millar is one. Why are some riders, convicted or currently under investigation, treated differently than others?
Contador's racing in the Giro and the Tour seemed to make more people forgive/forget the Damocles sword of doping hanging over his head.
How important is the scale of offence? If a rider's caught being 32, is it plausible to suspect him of doping his/her entire career? Are all dopers the same, if not, how do we measure that?
Everybody won't get a second chance
I read an article in procycling.no where Thomas Dekker's return was covered. I found that very interesting and I got new earned respect for Vaughters, not that I didn't have it before, but the article made me think. Dekker's tests from 2007 was retested, proving postive for EPO, and the following years were hard on him. After many conversations and discussions with Vaughters, Dekker went through intensive testing prior to be selected to ride for Chipotle, Garmin's farmer team. Dekker had to prove for Vaughters that he was capable of being a rider on a certain level without doping and according to procycling.no, Dekker had to cooperate with WADA. Dekker himself said he "feels a responsibility to inform young riders about the dangers of doping."
People deserve a second chance, right? Nobody's perfect and mistakes are being made by everyone. I know from earlier debates on twitter that some do not agree with me on this, but that is how I feel. I feel there is a huge difference between now and before. Ok, money's on the table and riders need a job, but times are changing. It is not the same like back in the 90's, even though judging by today's races and stages, it sometimes seems difficult to understand that. It is possible to get an exciting race climbing over only one HC mountain instead of riding over three HC in a stage.
I still get just as upset when a new positive test are being revealed. I find this whole debate difficult since feelings are involved too. As a result, a person's attitude or opinions towards a sport is not entirely rational, making argumentation often agitated.
I must say I don't view riders I've admired the same way after they have been caught, I think no one does. A large chunk of respect of that individual will always be gone, and I will always wonder if they still dope. Like it or not, that is my view.
Done their time
Some riders and fans say that since riders have done their time, it is ok to welcome them back, just as any other criminal are/should be in our society. But is it that simple?
I read on twitter today that what we as fans feel about riders prior to the offence is more important than people will admit. One matter many have mentioned is the doper's willingness to admit their sins in public. This will over time improve the rider's image. I guess it something about stepping up and take responsibility that makes us more able to forgive. Like in ethics and moral, honesty is important for how we judge people. The riders have people surrounding them, family and friends, having disappointed someone close to you, who trusted you, must be awful.
The super human performances is not as visible as before. I take this as a good sign. When somebody is performing well, I will from now on say that "well, someone has to be best". I choose to keep my faith, because there are some signs that we are witnessing an increasingly clearer peloton. I will put my scepticism and cynicism behind me, after all, with riders like Sagan, Kittel, Pinot, Degenkolb, EBH and G, the future has never looked so bright.